Why Flowers Smell


The scent of the flower is one of the reasons that flowers have such a timeless appeal. Floral scents inspire aromatic products ranging from soaps to candles to perfumes. Flowers' delightful fragrances attract animals that help them reproduce, while some flowers thrive because their appealing scents entice gardeners to cultivate them.


Flowers develop a particular smell in order to attract potential pollinators. Many creatures are attracted to certain types of smells, especially sweet smells. These flowers contain pollen that rubs off on insects as they try to climb into the flowers and extract the nectar. When the insects move on to other flowers, the pollen fertilizes the female flowers. The types of animals that pollinate flowers include bees, butterflies, bats, hummingbirds, flies, monarch caterpillars and beetles.

Time Frame

Plants that produce flowers do not always have a floral smell. Many plants and flowers only give off a scent at certain times, such as when they are ready to be pollinated or to release pollen. This allows the flowers to preserve their nectar until animals will be most likely to pollinate them.


Some flowers have become more popular because of their smells. These flowers are grown in gardens, around the exterior of homes and within homes, and they are also harvested for a variety of purposes. The harvested flowers are used as gifts, added to floral arrangements for decoration or extracted for their smells and used in perfumes and other products. Flowers that have pleasant scents tend to be cultivated more often.


The nectar is usually located at the base of the petals. This ensures that animals have to work for their nectar, brushing against the flower's anthers and pistil. Otherwise, some animals might gather nectar without brushing against these structures and facilitating pollination.

Foul Smells

Not all flowers smell good. The carrion flower, arum and African starfish flower produce scents meant to mimic rotting carcasses. The smell attracts a variety of insects such as flies and carrion beetles, which lay their eggs in carcasses. These eggs hatch and release larva that do not have anything to eat. The decay of this larva leads to a smell similar to flatulence. These smells, offensive to humans and many animals, attract creatures that associate them with meals. Some of these flowers have also evolved to look similar to rotting meat from the perspective of the insects that feed off carrion.

Keywords: why flowers smell, flower scents, purpose of floral fragrance

About this Author

Charles Pearson has written as a freelancer for two years. He has a B.S. in Literature from Purdue University Calumet and is currently working on his M.A. He has written three ebooks so far: Karate You Can Teach Your Kids, Macadamia Growing Handout and The Raw Food Diet.